When my six-year-old daughter decided she wanted to have a "Frozen" birthday party for her 7th birthday at the end of this month, I didn't expect the challenges that come with that choice. She was so excited and so happy with the idea that I just had to be excited and happy for her too.
Every day, she watched YouTube videos of the songs - from the official movie and the covers done by a number of people. Yes, even the parodies. My head is constantly ringing with the words from "Let It Go" and "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?".
And, when the girl asked: "Can I wear an Elsa costume to my party?" I had to tell her that I'll do my best to find one for her.
Unfortunately, everywhere we went here locally didn't really have that Frozen merchandise yet. So, I started hunting for stuff online. That wasn't easy either.
I did manage to find this cake toppings set from Ebay. Thankfully, it got delivered just before the birthday:
I also hunted for costumes online. And, while I found a handful on Ebay, I had some issues. First of all, the delivery time sounded tricky. Since we only decided the theme of her birthday party less than a few weeks before the event, the delivery times were was too close for comfort. So, I didn't really want to risk buying a costume that might not even make it in time for her party. Another issue I had was that the sizes were also way too close to call. I wasn't sure if it would fit her. And yes, some of the prices on those costumes were ridiculous - ranging from $50 to $1,000! Some even more.
Just over a week ago, however, I came across a post that says they were selling an Elsa from Frozen costume a local shop. I called them up to make sure they really had it. They said they did. I was relieved. My girl was thrilled. When we drove there a couple of hours after the phone call, we were told (rudely) at the shop that they didn't have the costume. It was an awful moment - the horrid customer service we received, the disappointment from my daughter, my exasperation at the whole deal... I might blog about this another time, but for now, I'd rather move on.
Anyway, my daughter and I left the shop with a heavy heart. Since I told my girl that the worst case scenario is that I'll just make her an Elsa costume, our next stop was the Spotlight shop next door to the other shop with dreadful staff members.
Thankfully, that Spotlight shop had a huge selection of fabrics. And, with a stroke of luck (and about an hour of hunting!), we ended up with these:
When I saw that piece of star/snowflake fabric, I was so pleased. It was the last metre from the roll. And, somehow, seeing it made me think that at the very least, I could make a nice Elsa-like cape for my birthday girl.
But then, we came across these other fabrics that seemed to match the design concept that I had in mind (after looking at several Elsa pictures and Elsa costumes made by other people). I ended up buying the square-patterned metallic blue fabric for the top bit of the dress (about 1.5 metres), a matching plain metallic blue fabric for the bottom bit of the dress (about 2 metres), and a white sheer glittery fabric for the inside of the top/the 'shirt' (about 1.5 metres).
Getting these fabrics together was quite a feat. And, when the lady at the counter said: "Don't tell me you're making an Elsa costume?!" - I was rewarded with the knowledge that at least I bought the right fabrics. In fact, when I posted the pic online and asked folks if they can guess what I was making, I was glad that people could tell that I was making an Elsa costume.
Anyway, while it was challenging just to buy the right fabrics for the project, I knew the toughest part of the job is yet ahead of me: Figuring out how to put the whole thing together!
You see, I don't see myself as a dressmaker. Yes, I can work the sewing machine. But, I haven't sewn anything as ambitious as a proper dress. Especially not one that's meant to be a recognisable costume. I was worried that I'll end up disappointing not just myself, but my daughter too.
But, I got to work on the costume anyway.
The first step was cutting the patterns for the dress.
I decided to use one of my girl's long-sleeved T-shirts as the guide to making the undershirt of the dress. I used butcher's paper for the pattern paper and traced around the T-shirt to create the pattern. But, I had to separate them into pieces:
Since it's impossible to keep them all straight, I ended up eyeballing a bit of the measurements - then just aligning the pieces together to make sure that they are the same sizes as their counterparts.
For the skirt, I used one of my girl's princess costumes as the guide. It didn't exactly fit the design I had in mind but since it had the 'v' shaped that I wanted, I thought it would still make a good guide. Again, I was just eyeballing the measurements + I used my girl's actual measurements to cut the pattern. I then would hold up the paper pattern against my girl's body, to make sure they fit where I want them to fit.
When I've drawn all the patterns on the paper, I cut them all up, then pinned them accordingly on to the fabrics.
My first mistake happened here, as I forgot to pin the arm patterns the right way on the fabric. They were all facing the same way when I first cut the fabrics, when I should have remembered to put two facing one way and the other two facing the other way. I had to re-pin and re-cut two pieces.
When cutting the patterns, I had to remember to allow for about 1/2-1 inch allowance all around. This makes sure that the measurements will still fit when you sew the pieces together.
When all the pieces of fabric were cut, I started sewing them together, starting with the 'shirt' (undershirt) part. For this, I basically just followed instructions I found online about how to sew a shirt.
Of course, this is where I made the next mistake. After putting the pieces of the shirt together, I really should have stopped at this step instead of sewing the whole shirt together:
Well, I could have still sewn the arms together, but the body should have been left open. But, since I ended up sewing the whole thing together, because I wanted to make sure it fit my girl (and yes, thankfully, it did), I had to use a seam ripper to undo the body later on.
After the 'shirt', I put together the top and bottom bits of the dress along the ('v' section):
After the front and back bits of the dress were sewn together, I hemmed the cape all around.
Once the cape was hemmed, I attached it to the back bit of the dress, making sure to create a bit of a sheared look.
Then, I sew the front bit of the dress to the front bit of the shirt, making sure to align it a bit further down (near the arm holes). And, I attached the back bit of the dress (with the cape) to the back bit of the undershirt.
At this stage, the shirt and the dress are attached together, but the sides of the dress aren't completed sewn in just yet.
I decided to add a zipper on the side to make sure that it would be easy to put on and take off the dress, as it is a bit form fitting on the top (like Elsa's real dress in the movie!). I ended up hemming that side of the dress before adding the zipper, so that it would have a clean look once the zipper's sewn in.
After I've added the zipper, I happily sew the sides of the dress. It was by far the easiest part of the job!
Once I've finished with all the sewing, I called in my girl for her first proper fitting for her Elsa costume.
She was saying over and over: "Somebody pinch me! Is this real? I can't believe this is real."
So, with my melting heart, frazzled brain, and exhausted body, I put the dress on my very excited girl. And, the wide, beaming smile was more than enough payment for me.
I was so shocked and relieved to see that the dress fit perfectly.
When I asked her to go outside for some photos, she happily modeled her very own Queen Elsa costume. We were even rewarded with a bit of wind, so the cape flowed nicely.
When it started to rain, I told the girl that we should probably end our photoshoot and go inside as it was getting cold.
"You know that the cold doesn't really bother me. Not when I'm wearing my Elsa dress!" she said. Ahhhh... What a girl! 🙂
And yes, the next day, when she came home from school, she ran to her wardrobe to look at her dress and said aloud to herself: "There it is! My beauty!" Then, she ran to see me and to give me another big hug and a kiss to say thanks.
I know we're both looking forward to seeing her wear her Elsa dress at her Frozen birthday party this weekend.
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.